CHAPTER 13 -- THE WEEKEND
Paul catches the last regular bus of the night heading west on Wilshire and gets back to Maggie’s at 4 a.m. Walking up Cochran Avenue at that hour of the morning is soothing. A cool dampness hugs the street and there is no movement in the neighborhood at all. The only noise is the buzzing and clicking coming from the electronic boxes that turn that streetlights from green to amber to red.
As he approaches Maggie’s apartment building his mind is already half-asleep and inside her bedroom, slipping between the cool sheets...and then he spots something that instantly wakes him back up again -- the brown Cutlass Impala from the night of the Premiere, with the two repo men fast asleep in the front seat. He pauses for a moment, listening to the big guy’s gentle snoring through the open front window.
Paul slides his keys in the lock and pushes the gate open. The iron creaks and both repo men wake up. “Hey! Paul Franti! We need to talk to you!” the smaller one yells.
Paul lets the gate bang shut and gets to Maggie’s apartment door. Once inside, Paul peeks out the dark window. The repo men are out on the lawn staring up at the building, trying to figure out the exact apartment where he might be hiding.
How had they figured out that he’s living with Maggie? Or where she even lived? These guys are getting scary serious. Weren’t there worse scofflaws driving BMWs and Mercedes they could hassle?
Paul is ticked; he’d been halfway asleep when he got off the bus and now he’s wide awake again. He creeps past the open bedroom door and sees Maggie lying there waiting for him, and heads into the bathroom. He pees sitting down, takes a 3-milligram tablet of melatonin, and hears the Cutlass drive away. Then he quietly shuts both the bathroom and bedroom doors and sneaks back into the living room with a half-bottle of red wine and turns on the TV. An old Roger Corman movie from the 1960′s is on, The Man with the X-Ray Vision, and Paul watches with the sound off until the red wine and the melatonin finally work and he falls asleep around 5 a.m.
Paul sleeps without moving for five hours straight, and then starts to dream. He is back at work, getting audio as Victor shoots the kids eating huge stacks of pancakes in yet another downtown diner, while Dwight sits three booths away watching on his monitor, whispering instructions into his walkie-talkie. Trent and Jodi break open cigarettes and sprinkle their pancakes with brown tobacco leaves, while Duncan douses his immense stack with cognac brandy and then lights it on fire. Ilima keeps coughing up huge gobs of green and red phlegm that she spits into a side dish.
Paul hears a knocking somewhere. He looks at his gear and spins knobs but can’t figure out where the noise is coming from. Victor glances up from his eyepiece and glares -- he can hear it too and wants Paul to do something about it. He tries isolating each audio source but that doesn’t work, then suddenly Dwight is in front of him, grabbing his boom from his hand...
Paul wakes up. The knocking is coming from the front door. He rolls off the couch but can’t stand up because his entire left side is asleep, so he lies on the floor shaking his arm and his leg trying to get the nerves to reconnect. Paul hears the bedroom door open and sees Maggie dart past, pulling a robe around her. He wants to yell out something about the repo men, but he can’t speak.
Maggie opens the door. It’s some muscular guy with great looks and a perfect tan. “Not now,” Maggie whispers. Not now? What does that mean?
He hands Maggie her Sunday paper. “I was just getting mine from in front, and I thought I’d give you yours,” he says with a loud British accent. He smiles, then tilts his head and blinks at Paul lying on the floor behind her.
“Thank you, Rupert, that was so sweet of you,” she says and turns to Paul writhing on the floor. “Paul! Rupert brought us our morning paper, isn’t that nice of him? You remember Rupert, don’t you? He lives in the unit above us.”
Paul struggles to his feet and limps to the front door as pins and needles sweep through his left side. Rupert comes into focus and Paul recognizes him, although he seems better in much better shape than he was three weeks ago.
“You look horrible, old man. Tough night?”
“More like a tough year.”
“Good thing I brought you your paper then. I don’t think you’d have made it to the gate and back.”
Maggie laughs out loud, and for too long. Paul wonders why his comment is so hilarious and glances at her. Maggie stops.
“Thanks again Rupert. Good luck with your audition tomorrow.”
“Thanks, I’ll need it. Nice seeing you again, Paul.”
Maggie shuts the door and heads straight to the kitchen and to the coffee maker.
Paul hobbles after her. “He tells you about all his auditions?”
“Sure, you do,” she says, filling the filter with French Roast. “He’s got a third callback audition for a NBC soap opera tomorrow. He’s excited.” She hit the red switch.
“He’s got a great tan for an Englishman.”
“Not all Englishmen are pasty-white. And anyway, he’s gay.”
“He has a tan because he’s gay?”
“I’m saying he’s got the whole look going. Perfect hair, tan, gym body...that’s what you do if you’re gay,” she says while taking the milk out of the refrigerator.
“He sure knocked for a long time.”
Maggie pours the milk into two cups. “He’s a good neighbor. He’s just nervous about his big audition and wants to gossip about it.”
“So, you’ve become friends then?”
" We were friends before you moved in. We check up on each other. And in this neighborhood, it’s important to have friends like that. It’s not like you’re around a lot these days.” She pours the coffee, hands him his mug and kisses him. “But I think it’s sweet that you’re jealous. Even if he is gay.”
Why did she whisper not now then? He is jealous, he has to admit. Had something happened? And just the night before, Paul had decided to commit to Maggie once and for all. He decides not to press either button right now.
They go back into the bedroom and sprawl on the bed to read the paper and sip coffee. The sun shines through the window, music is on the stereo and the pain in Paul’s thighs and back is gradually fading. After he finishes each section of the Los Angeles Times he glances over at Maggie sprawled sideways across a pillow, one leg under the covers and one leg over, her breast just ready to fall out of her loose robe. She senses him looking at her and smiles, tosses her hair and goes back to reading.
“That’s not your usual terry cloth robe,” Paul says.
“It’s silk, I just bought it,” she says, running her hand across it. “I got a raise at work so I decided to treat myself.”
“You got a raise? Congratulations.”
“And you look great in it.”
“Thank you again.’ She smiles.
“Do you want more coffee?” Paul asks.
“Wow, this feels like a first date,” Maggie says.
“Maybe it is. Do you want more coffee or not?”
Maggie doesn’t answer. She crooks her finger and beckons him. He goes straight for her mouth, and her lips meet him more than halfway and they both push the paper off the bed while still locked in a kiss. He slides his hand into her robe and touches her nipple, and suddenly she is on top of him, her hips across his waist and her white breasts out in the bright sunshine. She laughs and dangles her hair in his face.
“Let’s fuck,” she says.
And so, they do. And it’s wonderful -- and different. They’ve been making love on Sunday morning their entire relationship, so Paul knows what to expect from Maggie’s repertoire. But she has new tricks this time around, stuff neither of them ever talked about. She rocks him hard, and his climax drains the last drop of energy out of his body. He passes out for another hour. When he wakes up, Maggie is reading the paper.
“That certainly was different. Where’d you learn all that?”
“Books. I’ve had lots of time for reading since you took this job.”
Paul flashes back to the kids eating their pancakes and smoking, trying to grab at any shared feeling they could, and how badly he wanted a shared feeling too. He’d been waiting for this day with Maggie ever since then, and this Sunday morning was turning out perfect, exactly how he’d hoped, and in just a few hours she’d restored him and prepared him for another 90-hour week starting that night.
“You know how you asked me if I was living here or hiding here...and I said both? Well now I feel like I just want to live here. With you. For a very long time.”
Maggie’s face softens and she kisses him. “That’s so sweet.”
She rolls to the edge of the bed and stands up. “But you’re so busy with your job right though, that I think you were right when you said we should wait and see...until after the six weeks is up, I mean.”
Paul feels like the bed has disappeared from under him, and he is in freefall.
She grabs his mug and holds it up with a smile. “More coffee?”